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I am not so sure myself that, in the affluent western world at least, we have robbed ourself of individuality. I would go so far as to suggest that members of my society regularly adopt an almost provocative individuality - some of the more difficult people I find myself dealing with are at least partly so because they simply refuse to compromise what they see as their individuality.
Individuality can in itself become a cult (of personality) and seems to me to render certain practitioners highly antisocial (I recall a number of times were the defence of "I was just being myself" or "I was calling it as I see it" was used to justify provocative behaviour)
Individuality can in itself become a cult (of personality) and seems to me to render certain practitioners highly antisocial (I recall a number of times were the defence of "I was just being myself" or "I was calling it as I see it" was used to justify provocative behaviour).
We define ourselves and others by our nationalities, ethnicities, hair colors, genders, sexual orientations, psychological aberrations, ages, professions; we're members and followers of traditions, trends, cults, philosophies, political parties.
Somehow we've robbed ourselves of the ultimate freedom- the innate gift of independent thinking.
But in no other area of self- definition and personal progression have we allowed ourselves to be so devastatingly cheated as with what SHOULD be belief, but is RELIGION.
So we're pack animals, creatures of comfort and habit. Most of us are more content to be led than to lead or explore alternatives. We have a learned, irrational tendency to unthinkingly conform, to be attracted by novelty on a base level and yet be immobilized by a strange neophobia where the spiritual is concerned. We've become used to repressing, avoiding, and ultimately denying ourselves the frightening- but imperative to spiritual growth- exploration of our own souls and their unknown destiny and fate, but also tragically their infinite potential.
We cling to tradition, almost unquestioningly accepting what's served to us in terms of stale spiritual fare. We imitate rather than innovate, not daring to stray from the beaten paths where it would be, ironically, most important. We timorously go with the flow and are swallowed in the masses of collective non- thinking and brainwashing. Most of us have been indoctrinated from birth, ostensibly for our own good, with the idea that organized religion is the only way to save ourselves. Even in the most common case of religion by "default", adoption of the religion of our families, we have an inertia- like tendency to accept the default and very rarely give a serious thought, "practicing" or not, to opt completely out.
WHY, in our supposedly otherwise so advanced era are we still so dark- age backward in spiritual progression?
Of course there are the obvious benefits of community and comfort, guidance and a certain peace of mind. But we have to weigh them against the negatives. We can't deny that we're fully aware of the almost unfathomably detrimental, oppressive influence that organized religion has always had on the political- economical, social/ moral/ ideological evolution of man. The books and scriptures are filled with inconsistencies, contradictions, and destructive teachings. Religious fundamentalism with its deliberate misinterpretations and the resulting horrors of terrorism, prejudice and discrimination are spreading again at a sickening rate, and brutal wars are still being fought, as ever, because of these teachings. Extreme misogynistic practices, physical mutilation, unwanted pregnancies and barbaric lynchings are (to mention just a few) daily occurences in the name of various religions. There can be no realistic secularization on a global scale.
Why can't we let go?
Isn't it painfully obvious that it's highest time for a real SPIRITUAL REVOLUTION?
Can't we begin to think for ourselves? To take the initiative, make a gesture, a sensible sacrifice and find the courage- as opposed to passively distancing ourselves even as nonpracticers- to officially
RENOUNCE OUR RELIGIONS
and seek our spiritual identities on our own? It's ludicrous that intelligent beings seem to be ignoring the fact that it is a logical impossibility to embrace and adhere to an entire doctrine, a set of beliefs with all it's intricacies, implications, ambiguities and blatant contradictions and to rationally, honestly say: "Yes, this is what I believe."
Is it so hard to recognize the massive discrepancy between "religion" and "belief"? The obvious paradox? The joke that's been played on us as an ancient means of subjugation and control under the guise of spirituality?
A belief- a true faith- is a conviction.
The term "religious conviction" in conjunction with organized religion is an oxymoron.
A SPIRITUAL conviction is the most personal, individual belief there can be and the result of a perhaps lifelong journey of difficult, frightening, painful and rewarding introspection, reflection, and intense soul- searching. It can ONLY come from the deepest self and not from opaque historical accounts and myths or elitist, undemocratic doctrines DICTATED by others.
What is ultimately more dangerous- change or standstill? Pacifistic upheaval or passive complacency?
Is it overly idealistic to attempt to begin the singlemost overdue, admittedly ambitious change in the history of humanity-
or is it our moral responsibility?
There is the contrast in this situation between your dependence on social cohesion and the will of the individuals. Not that I disagree with a social conduit based on common principles or behavior; though I think the notion of provocative behavior is relevant to the individual's perception, and can be avoided or modified without cause to homogenize a social grouping - in fact a social grouping could be as irrelevant to itself or co-exist in unity without any necessity for legal/linguistic conditioning, solely based on a principle of social dependence.
No offense to you, but like Riverdale, you really have no idea what you are talking about. You might want to do some research on these things before you make assertations about religion.
Also, exactly what is a "semi-occult musing"? I must confess that in all my years of researching religion I have never come across this term.
You claim the Apocrypha is part of the Catholic Bible. That is not true. The Apocrypha, (as Christians understand it - many other religions have their own apocrypha), is a collection of writings written around the same time as the canonical texts that some theologans find relevant. Certain churches, especially eastern orthodox churches or gnostic sects, find certain parts of the apocrypha worthy of inclusion in their canon.
I would agree with you that Hinduism is an organised religion, I find it debateable that Shintoism is. Chinese Folklore is certainly not an organised religion - the state religion is that of enforced atheism and those that still believe (in secrecy) are either buddhist or christian. Folklore is a set of cultural traditions and stories rather than beliefs. To insist otherwise would be to say that Leprechauns are taken as seriously by the irish as catholicism - which is ingenuous.
Let's be careful about this. The Catholic Bible does contain apocrypha - it's just that those texts are not apocryphal to the Catholic Bible.
Most Chinese are Buddhism and Taoist or some other mix, almost all including Chinese folklore in their mix. Walking into a Chinese temple you will find statues of the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Jesus and heroes from folklore like the Monkey King.
Yes I accept that - though is that necessarily a valid criteria for an organised religion.
For example I would say the green men, sheela-Na-gigs and other trapping of celtic paganism found in some old churches in England are part of folklore, rather than the teachings of the church.
'Folklore' seems by it's very definition to differ from 'organised' religion. Folklore is a body of various stories and traditions. They may influence religion (as christmas, hallowe'en and easter almost certainly have done) but I don't think they are taken with the same degree of seriousness or relevation as religious stories.
One is a fan of folklore, as opposed to a follower of religion, I feel.
I think Journey to the West was an "honest fiction" if you will, though some confusion may arise because of a very similar character in Hindu religion, the monkey Hanuman, is considered a very real hero in the story of Sati and Rama.
Whilst the monk who inspired the character of tripitaka really did bring the buddhist scriptures to China, I don't think anyone really seriously believes he did so in the company of an immortal monkey-magician, an Ogre, a pig-demon and a dragon disguised as a horse - I think that's taken as a very entertaining and instructive tale based loosely on a real event.
To be honest I wouldn't even class Journey to the West as Folklore - it's a novel by a known author - it has spiritual influences and may well have influenced certain spiritual thinkers - but so has the Lord of the Rings or the books of CS Lewis.
I fully acceot that defining lines drawn between religious texts, collections of folklore and even fictions such as Journey to the West do overlap and blur into one another. It may be nothing more than the drawing of a personal boundary - but I would say an organised religion is most fully embodied when it has a recognisable canon and an institution devoted to learning that canon and disemanating that knowledge throughout it's followers, maybe even persuading it's followers to evangelise the canon to non-believers.
Whereas even a very enthusiastic folklorist would likely be highly sceptical about the veracity of the stories - and wouldn't much mind what weight other people applied to them (asides from issues of taste of course).
All my own opinion I fully admit - but seeing as Riverdale didn't define what he meant by organised religion I jumped to the assumption that he or she was referring to religions with distict and recognisable institutions (he or she refers to "their texts" - which hardly includes folklores as they have no sort of "set" body of writing.
The reason I claimed that I found shintoism a debateable case is that, for all I know, it is folklore-like in having no real "set" writings or beliefs - rather a body of optional works of no real widely agreed rating.
This would then be opposed to say a religion like Christianity with a set of books clearly rated as varying in import. There is the stuff to contextualise Jesus' background and give a "story so far" (old testament) which is important, but then Jesus comes along and his story and that of his early followers is a work that supercedes the earlier (literally, a new testament) - plus other optional bits and bobs for real fans (apocrypha).
Another intersting example would be Islam. There is the stuff Mohammad recited under divine instruction (Koran), the things he said when not under divine guidance (Hadif) and an arabic folk tradition (Sufism).
I really appreciate your input here Didymos - this sort of line of inquiry is a very challenging and interesting area for me. To summarise, I view the organisation of religion from folklore to highly organised as one big blur - with many exceptions, but I do percieve a difference in the two.